Ardberg Distillery

Port Ellen,

Isle of Islay

History: Ardbeg was first built by John Macdougall in 1815. As with most distilleries in Scotland, it has had many ups and downs during its 200 years in existence, with several owners and even a closure in the 80s (which saw 18 people on Islay lose their jobs). The late 90s saw a new dawn for the distillery with the LVMH group taking over the distillery, who saw the potential in the single malt market and in particular the Islay style. The company, which also owns the Highland distillery Glenmorangie, has grown the brand to be one of the most well-known and respected single malts in the world.

The whisky: Since 1997 this single malt has become one of the iconic brands in the whisky world. Yes, the marketing and branded have helped but it’s the liquid inside which has made it what it is, winning World Whisky of the Year four times in the last seven years. As with nearly all the single malts on Islay, Ardbeg is heavily peated with bags and bags of flavour.

Favourite tipple: I know not everyone likes a smoky style whisky but I love it, and this is a powerhouse in the world of smoky whiskies. It is also incredibly hard for me to choose a favourite from the range. If I absolutely had to then I would advise you to purchase the Ardbeg Corryvreckan which won World's Best Single Malt Whisky at the World Whisky Awards in 2010. You can pick up a bottle for around £70.

Why visit? As with all the distilleries on the island, the tours here are first class with some of the most knowledgeable guides you can find in Scotland. As well as the standard tour you can choose from a range of more in-depth experiences. Ardbeg has a loyal following and these “advanced” tours tick all the boxes for its fans. The Ardbeg Bog Off Walk for £50 looks great fun, where you take a hike over the hills, drink in the landscape, taste exquisite drams, enjoy a picnic lunch and round it off with a short tour of the distillery. If you want the full Ardbeg experience then you can book The Seaview Cottage which is nestled in the heart of the distillery – the cottage itself was the former home of the distillery manager and sleeps up to six adults in three en-suite bedrooms.

Geek alert: If you want to learn more about Ardbeg and join its army of fans, then you must join The Ardbeg Committee. Which has worldwide membership of more than 120,000 and counting. Considering the whole island only has 3,000 people living on it, this is quite a lot of people.

Interesting fact: In the next couple of months Islay’s ninth distillery will open to the public. Ardnahoe is situated on Islay’s north-east coast, equidistant between the Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila distilleries. This is not going to be a huge distillery with a production capacity of just 500,000 litres of alcohol per annum. Ardnahoe has been built by Scottish independent bottler Hunter Laing & Co and will distill a classic peated style of Islay malt, using the finest barley and water from the depths of Loch Ardnahoe itself.